- Hardcover: 200 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801895804
- ISBN-13: 978-0801895807
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,644,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Lawless Universe: Science and the Hunt for Reality 1st Edition
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"Dr. Rosen knocks down the structure of good science and rebuilds it for the reader, brick by brick, beginning with the most basic differences between objectivity and subjectivity. And through topics that might otherwise leave readers feeling adrift―like quantum theory, metaphysics, and the anthropic principle―Dr. Rosen proves a calm, conscientious guide who sticks by the reader's side."(GW Magazine/GW Today)
"Rosen's book is an ambitious and easily accessible philosophical reflection of physics by a theoretical physicist."(Alesander Reutlinger Metascience)
"An interesting read."(P.J. Bussey Contemporary Physics)
About the Author
Joe Rosen was, until retirement, a professor of physics at Tel Aviv University and the University of Central Arkansas. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in the Department of Physics at The George Washington University. His many books include Symmetry Discovered, A Symmetry Primer for Scientists, Symmetry in Science, and Symmetry Rules.
Top customer reviews
It is sobering and profound reading experience at the same time. Sobering because science will not give us answers to the most profound questions we have. Profound because the wonder and mystery of being is safe from being reduced by the scientific reductionism. It is a carefully reasoned book that makes a reader a little more grown up and a little more enlightened. After closing the last page the words of Prospero came to my mind: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on."
Rosen adds what he calls "intersubjective" truth, that is things that are universally accepted as true by human beings, truths that stand the test of scientific examination. Rosen's main point here is that even scientific truths are in fact just agreements by human beings found through human experience. This is close to the postmodern position that scientific truth is to some extent culturally derived.
Rosen goes on to explain that for any part of the universe to be amendable to scientific inquiry and to yield scientific laws, it must be reproducible and yield predictions. The universe as a whole is not reproducible (it's the only one we have). Consequently the universe as a whole is lawless. Hence his title.
Beginning in chapter four Rosen makes a distinction between metaphysics, which "is concerned with what lies around, below, above, and beyond science" (p. 164) and science itself which operates within the framework of metaphysics. He asserts that cosmology, for example, is a metaphysical endeavor since the universe as a whole is not capable of being understood in a scientific sense.
Next Rosen brings in realism and idealism and how they relate to science and our understanding of reality and how they relate to holism and reductionism. Philosophically speaking a realistic worldview sees laws as things we discover or figure out. Moreover, a realist sees nature as existing independently of ourselves. An idealist sees the laws of nature, including perhaps mathematics, as something we superimpose on nature while believing there exists something beyond the natural world.
Up to this point I found myself in substantial agreement with Rosen's expression, and see his worldview as being consistent with that of an empirical realist and a man of science. I would only quibble with his dividing "truth" into the three categories of objective, subjective and intersubjective. Being an amateur philosopher, I think it is enough to say there are public truths and private truths. Public truths are truths that can be agreed upon by others using the scientific method. Private truths are beliefs about things that cannot be confirmed by others.
The last two chapters are about the anthropic principle and what Rosen calls "The Hunt for Reality." It is with his nearly exhaustive delineation of the anthropic principle that I find fault. It is not so much in his expression, which is excellent or even in his understanding, which I think is thorough. It is instead with his appreciation of the utility of the principle. Simply put, the anthropic principle states that the existence of human beings "may, within the framework of science, serve as an explanation for phenomena and aspects of nature..." (p. 161)
The key word is "explanation." The anthropic principle may explain or "imply" many things. The key point is that "explain" or "imply" is not the same thing as "cause." Thus if the strength of the gravitational force were much greater or much less than it is humans would not exist. "Thus [according to the anthropic principle] the actual strength does seem to follow from the existence of Homo sapiens." (p. 128) By this reasoning one could also say that the actual strength does seem to follow from the existence of aardvarks or E. coli or snow falling on cedars. On page 130 Rosen admits that the anthropic principle is "a beautiful circularity" which would seem to weaken its explanatory power. The fact that the anthropic principle "explains" or "implies" just about every aspect of our world suggests strongly that it explains or implies nothing.
So why is Rosen so enamored of the anthropic principle, stating on page 132 that it "possesses deep significance"? My guess is that his adoration stems from his sense that the principle emphasizes the intrinsic human nature of science. Science is inescapably a human endeavor. Rosen doesn't want us to forget that.
Finally, because quantum theory is not a complete description of reality, Rosen concludes that objective reality "is at least partially hidden from us." He adds, "Since this reality transcends nature, we're thus led to a transcendent worldview. There's more to objective reality than meets the eyes, it seems." (p. 159)
This careful and hard-to-argue-with expression concludes the book. There's a glossary, an index, and suggestions for further reading. Additionally Rosen concludes each chapter with a brief summation of what the chapter contains. All in all this is a concise and well written book that explores the boundaries between what we know and can know and what we do not and cannot know. For another excellent book on similar themes see
The World Is Not as We Think It Is
now available at Amazon.